If You Have to Terminate…. Stay Safe!

Archive for the ‘Workplace Safety’ Category

If You Have to Terminate…. Stay Safe!

Posted on: July 10th, 2020

As I am about to publish my next Guest Blog by Mike Perkins, President of Frontline HR Solutions a 25 year Legal and HR Professional Consulting Practice, I would like to introduce a recent workplace homicide – suicide at a Walmart Distribution Center, Red Bluff, California by Louis Lesley Land a former worker who had been fired in 2019 after failing to show up for work.

On Saturday, June 27, 2020, Louis Lesley had apparently crashed his car into the center shooting his  semiautomatic rifle. Inside, he shot & killed one co-worker, injured 4 others, before being shot and killed by Red Bluff Police in Parking Lot. 

This particular story is a timely one as it relates to terminations and the potential risks, giving interest to this informative Guest Blog by Mike Perkins on the topic of “terminations”.  We both agree that while the process is the official termination of employment, we believe that the word has a negative connotation and the process needs to be considered a potential business-security threat.

I commend the Walmart Leadership and Security Teams for taking the appropriate workplace security and workplace violence prevention violence response risk mitigation measures, to prepare the workplace and protect the workforce against the potential threat posed by an armed intruder.

Here’s Mike Perkin’s information packed Guest Blog.

In this time of furloughs, layoffs, high unemployment, financial tension and uncertainty about the continued viability of many organizations, emotions are fragile and, sometimes, quite volatile.  Many companies are having to make difficult decisions about reducing their workforce for the unpredictable times that lie ahead.  Some companies are deferring employment decisions as long as possible while others are fighting for survival and having to make immediate cuts.  Essential workers who are still actively employed are worried about exposure to illness at work, while commuting on public transit, and during breaks.

Others who have been considered non-essential workers are often sitting at home wondering if they will still have a job, when they can return, and which creditors should be paid over others.  As the tension increases, substance abuse, domestic abuse and suicide rates are rising.

Terminating employees is always fraught with risk.  All these additional factors combine to exponentially increase the stakes. When it becomes necessary to discharge an employee, employers should do everything possible to reduce the tension and the risk for everyone involved.  Even before the Coronavirus-related growth of phone and video conferencing, I have been encouraging employers to consider utilizing alternatives to personal meetings and the use of “Administrative Leave” as practical strategies for risk mitigation.

Last year’s tragic workplace shooting at the Henry Pratt Company in Joliet, Illinois, is a grave reminder of the danger that surrounds the discipline and termination process.  In that situation, an employee who knew he was likely going to be terminated that day, brought a gun to work and shot his plant manager, HR manager, an HR intern (on his first day at work), his union chairman and union steward, a co-worker, and several police first-responders.  The shooting began in an isolated meeting room where the employee was told he was being terminated and continued after he fled from the room and moved throughout the facility.

Sometimes you have no choice but to end the employment relationship.  Sometimes the decision is purely economic and relatively straightforward.  Other times, the decision is more complicated.

Most challenging is when, despite your best efforts to salvage the relationship, one of your employees is just not working out.  She may not be showing up for work on time despite repeated warnings.  Sometimes he may not show up at all and doesn’t call to let you know.  He or she may have taken advantage of the company by falsifying hours while working remotely.  Co-workers and customers are left hanging.  Maybe she continuously ignores safety rules and is endangering herself and others.  Or, maybe he has been engaging in serious misconduct that is detrimental to your organization.  You’re convinced—this employee has to go.

As an employment attorney and HR professional, I have always advised clients “There is no such thing as a routine termination” and “There is no such thing as an emergency termination.”  Does that sound confusing and, possibly, inconsistent?  Let me explain.

“There are no routine terminations.” Terminating a person’s employment can be nerve-wracking and, sometimes, dangerous.  The first few times a manager or an HR professional communicates a termination decision can be especially unsettling and they may spend hours fretting over the decision and planning their approach. But, after a while, managers who have handled several terminations sometimes have the tendency to treat them routinely and may spend very little time reviewing the background and contemplating the best approach to take with an employee.

They become “cut and dried” decisions and the termination message is often handled with clinical detachment.  The process becomes routine.

Conversely, losing a job is never routine for an employee.  Everything is thrown into turmoil—housing, transportation, utilities, healthcare, financial stability, and relationships at work and at home.  Often, a person’s most significant feeling of self-worth comes from his or her position at work.  Sometimes, their work is their entire world. Even when a struggling employee has been coached, disciplined and given warnings, the employee may not accept that he or she has failed at the job.  For many, being terminated is earth-shattering.  Some rebound, recover and move on.  Some do not.

Some turn to alcohol or drugs. Some lash out on social media.  Some turn to violence. Truly, there are no routine terminations.  Every termination should be treated as a significant event with extensive review of the background circumstances and documentation, an analysis of the legal and security risks, and consideration and planning for the safety and well-being of those delivering the message and those on the receiving end.

“There are no emergency terminations.”  The risk of an employment lawsuit arising from a termination is higher than all other types of employment-related actions combined.  Over the last twenty-five years, I have counseled with clients and managers concerning hundreds of terminations.

Despite “Let’s do it now” pressures from irate managers, I cannot think of one situation where it was absolutely necessary to discharge the employee immediately.

But wait.  If the employee is engaged in significant misconduct or posing safety risks, shouldn’t he or she be removed quickly?  Yes, but it does not mean the employee needs to be terminated quickly.  Hasty, spur-of- the-moment terminations often lead to questionable decisions, sloppy execution and elevated emotions.  Even economic terminations should be carefully planned.

Administrative Leave.  For the last several years, I have advocated the use of “Administrative Leave pending review” in lieu of a rushed termination.  Placing an employee on Administrative Leave accomplishes several things:

  1. Removes the employee from the workplace and from official interaction with co-employees and customers;
  2. Allows a “cooling off” period for emotions (employee, managers, co-workers);
  3. Allows time for gathering facts, documentation and witness information;
  4. Reduces the “intimidation factor” for witnesses when the subject employee is absent from the workplace;
  5. Lets the employee know the company is carefully reviewing his/her employment status or incidents affecting that status;
  6. Allows time to obtain the employee’s response to the alleged conduct;
  7. Allows time for HR and/or legal review; and
  8. Allows time to review safety concerns and put appropriate security measures into effect.

There is also a psychological influence.  Removing the employee from the workplace tends to create a calming effect for all involved. It gives everyone a chance to breathe.  I have found that employees generally respond calmly to being placed on Administrative Leave; especially when the leave is communicated as an opportunity for the company to carefully review employment status and any information pertaining to specific incidents that may have occurred.

Employees like to be told that they will have an opportunity to tell their side of the story.  They expect, and should receive, a thorough and fair review of the circumstances before a termination decision is made.

To Pay or Not to Pay?  Administrative Leave may be paid or unpaid.  Some factors in that decision may include: applicable state and local law, past practice, company policies, company economics, terms of a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, perceived volatility of the employee, nature of the offense, whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt, length of employment, legal risk, security considerations and the likelihood that the employee will actually be terminated.

In most cases, I recommend that the employee be paid while on administrative leave.

It helps take the immediate financial pressure off the employee and conveys a sense of fairness– that the company has not reached a final decision without doing its due diligence.  Sometimes, anticipating the inevitable, employees use this time for job hunting.  If the employee has another job lined up, the stakes are reduced for all involved.

Advising an employee that he or she is being placed on Administrative Leave can be done in person while the employee is at work or by telephone before or after work.  If the employee works remotely, it can be done by phone or video conference during work hours.  As usual, a witness should be present or conferenced in and announced as being present on the call or video conference.

The employee should be advised that he or she is being placed on “Administrative Leave Pending Investigation” or “Administrative Leave Pending Review of Circumstances” pertaining to employment.

The employee should be instructed not to return to the workplace until notified otherwise and avoid communicating with other employees about the issues being reviewed.  The employee should be advised whether the leave is “with pay” or “without pay” and that someone will contact the employee very soon to hear his or her side of the story.  The employee should be advised and steps should be taken to temporarily suspend access to company computers, systems, email, memory storage and facilities.

Be sure to follow through with the commitment to contact and interview the employee and witnesses identified by the employee before making a final employment decision.

Communicating the Decision.  At the conclusion of the investigation and review, the employee should be notified of the final decision and given instructions for returning to work or for ending employment.  If the decision is made to return the employee to work, the employee should be advised of this by telephone or email and then invited back to discuss (with a witness present) expectations for the future,  and conditions for continuing employment. This discussion can also be held by phone or video conference.

If in person, appropriate security measures should be followed for the employee’s return to the facility and for the return-to-work-meeting.

During this meeting, it is important to warn the employee to avoid any type of actual or perceived retaliation against other employees who may have been involved in the issue and investigation.

If the final decision is to terminate the employee, I advocate communicating the decision by telephone or video conference.  The Joliet shooting is reason enough to consider this option.  The employee is aware of the strong potential for termination and, absent special circumstances, it is not necessary to increase the security risk by inviting the employee back to the facility to be told he or she is being fired.

When there is a union contract that requires personal meetings, union officials may be willing to waive the personal appearance and allow all interviews, hearings and discussions to be conducted by phone or video conference.  If your collective bargaining agreement does not allow for this, consider proposing telephone or video conferencing as an option when you negotiate your renewal contract.

If the decision is made to ask the employee to return to the facility for a termination meeting, situationally-appropriate security steps should be taken.

As with the initial Administrative Leave communication, I have found that employees are generally more accepting of a termination decision when it follows Administrative Leave review.  My clients and I have not experienced any negative repercussions from communicating the final decision by phone.  A witness should be present and introduced so the employee will know there are others listening to the call or participating in a video conference.  I recommend being very careful with the words used to communicate the message.

Avoid using words like “terminating” or “fired.”  They are volatile on their face and have the potential to inflame emotions.

Instead, consider using words like “we are ending your employment,” “we will be proceeding with separation of employment” or “the circumstances leave us no choice but to discontinue your employment.”  Of course, all the normal termination, final pay and benefits continuation information should also be communicated during this conference.

If your company follows a neutral reference policy, it is usually advisable to remind the employee of that policy.  Terminated employees are often concerned with “what are they going to tell people about me?”

Where appropriate, be sure to include a clear instruction that the employee is not authorized to return to any of the company’s facilities.  Arrangements should be made for exchange of employee property and company property via courier or other means. When available, remind the employee of the organization’s employee assistance program resources and any appropriate outplacement assistance.

If the employee has engaged in serious misconduct such as harassment, theft, or acts/threats of violence, it is recommended that you consult with legal counsel for advice about outplacement assistance and your response to reference requests.

There is a fine line between your confidentiality responsibilities to the former employee and your duty to others to avoid promulgating a known risk.

The somber story of the Joliet tragedy should prompt HR and operational leaders to thoroughly evaluate their approach to employee discipline and discharge.  While the use of Administrative Leave is an effective strategy for reducing the risk surrounding employee discipline, it does not eliminate all risk.

Employers should always exercise due diligence and implement adequate security measures to protect themselves and their employees throughout the disciplinary and post-disciplinary process.

 

#Covid-19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation Challenges and Opportunities

Posted on: May 13th, 2020

Management must not begin to view the “Covid-19 Return to Work” as a “new normal” yet, but, rather a “transition interim” towards a stabilized period where Employers and the Workforce can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In as much as Employers have a duty and responsibility to provide for a safe and secure workplace (OSHA Duty to Warn Clause) how it is achieved is not a mandate but also a moral, ethical and legal obligation. Providing for a safe and secure workplace can be effectively implemented through organizational engagement.

Whether your business or an organization is a small, midsize or large size Employers having a workplace violence prevention mindset will aid the thinking approaches to managing #Covid19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation Challenges and Opportunities during this “emergence phase”.

Because you may have a different emphasis and approach to workplace violence prevention you may  not understand risk factors as important and may not find contributing factors as relevant as I may. However, both are important in prevention and mitigation. Managing risk during this “emergence phase” will be full of challenges and opportunities.

You are apt to find more frequent outbursts, verbal altercations and acts of defiance in preventing the feared surprise attacker (active shooter). Be prepared for the angry workforce.

Depending on what side of the issues you are on Covid19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation may or may not present challenges or opportunities.  Consider it a “neutral zone” full of opportunity to assess and evaluate what the “new normal” might look like. A time where rules are not clear and new approaches are required.

Will you anticipate the challenge in taking proactive measures in looking for a proper solution or will you have a reactive, dam the torpedoes, full steam ahead attitude and miss potential risk mitigation opportunities?

Is there room for changing old paradigms of thinking and operating while still providing for a safe and secure workplace and contending with other business-security expectations?

How the Covid19 Return Return to Work Risk Mitigation challenges are handled and how opportunities are strategized will depend entirely on empathy, thoughtfulness and effective leadership.  Building new approaches might dictate new ways of encountering business-security decisions, managing risks and preventing escalation of violence to physical acts of violence.

Supervisors may be called upon to lead and give employees the benefit of the doubt. During this “emergence phase” “new normal” will task the Employer’s management and leadership responsibilities:

  • They will need to be responsible and accountable for their actions in not allowing situations to escalate.
  • Engaged supervision involved in anticipating problems, recognizing and responding to warning signs and understanding the impact of business issues on the workforce’s perception of the issues.
  • An organizational mindset may require understanding the significance of owning outcomes in minimizing risks by acknowledging unintentional consequences.

What if scenarios may become more prevalent and relevant in forecasting impact on business decisions and actions.  If you are in Human Resources you might see convenient opportunities in addressing adverse personnel decisions and personnel reduction actions not possible before Covid19 but imaginable  now.  You may find expedient solutions more practical today by the government mandated workplace closings that may include assumptions on downsizings, reorganization or not rehiring employees.

Employee perception of disparate treatment will drive the thinking and the behavior that fuels the emotional contagion, rationale and justification to exact their vengeance.

Supervisors and managers will need to be centers of influence and lead by example in being able to recognize the potentially volatile workplace environments and have the backing and ability to mitigate risks on the spot.

Success will be predicated on management’s commitment to empathetic leadership while providing for a safe workplace in addressing inappropriate conduct through root cause analysis.  Treating employees with dignity and respect will take on a different meaning that shows sincerity, care and concern for their well-being.

If you are the safety or security manager you may find yourselves as “Ambassadors of Change and Influence”.  You might view challenges as new duties and responsibilities in addressing social distancing relating to workforce, customer and vendor interactions; support management decisions in the removal of employee(s) who indicated positive during the infectious decease screening process; and enforcing violations of the workplace violence policy in response to nonviolent volatile acts of violence (verbal outburst, yelling, screaming)  to name a few.

Until such time when “new normal” stability is gained, Covid19 Return to Work may very well be the “new emerging threat”.

Workplace Violence Prevention will require a different mindset that engages with the workforce in finding amicable solutions rather than hasty swift actions to discipline and removal. Containment of emotional reactions will drive the need for management and workforce civility.

Enforcing the Workplace Violence Prevention Policy may take on a more compassionate approach in some incidents by addressing root causes and contributing factors before disciplinary action. In other words management may need to become more transparent in adjudicating workforce discipline.

The “new normal” may require understanding of the unintentional consequences of new policy changes and personnel decisions affecting business and organization reorganizations, consolidation and required learning of new functions. The transition from disgruntled to aggression may become more apparent and a frequent occurrences during these turbulent periods and VUCA concepts (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) may prevail.

Whereas prior to Covid19,  Employers might have been more inclined to act swiftly on the disciplinary and separation process in addressing misconduct and acts of violence, during the “emergence phase”,  prevention and de-escalation may necessitate an empathetic response where appropriate before eventual administrative action is taken.

Because of the workplace turbulence and employee perception of unfair labor disparate treatment there will be a tendency for more frequent emotional outbursts. As such, there will be a need for supervisory training in aspects of workplace violence prevention training that includes defusing conflict, de-escalation,, warning signs, risk factors, contributing factors and issues around managing the potentially volatile workplace environment.

The real challenge awaiting Employers in this “new normal’ will be the employee perception of disparate unfair management decisions masked as Covid19 Pandemic Return to Work Labor Management Employment actions. 

The manifestation of frequent nonviolent acts of defiance and episodes of anger by employees will be a more frequent in response to workforce reactions to disagreeable news. In short, increased tensions will become more apparent as management and workforce resolve perception issues during this “emergence period”.

How will you respond to the Covid19 Return to Work ‘new normal”? Will you be proactive or reactive?

Felix P. Nater, CSC is a security management consultant who helps Employers implement and manage workplace security strategy and policy with an emphasis on workplace violence prevention. He believes that workplace violence prevention is an ongoing process involving  multiple intervention strategies. He derived his experiences and consulting model while working as a Postal Inspector on U.S. Postal Inspection Services’ New York Division Violence Interdiction Team.

Contact Felix P. Nater at 1-877-valu101 or 1-877-825-8101. Visit his website www.naterassociates.com

Workplace Violence Prevention: When Is The Time To Improve Your Prevention Posture

Posted on: February 6th, 2020

Now is the time for all organizations to seize the moment to improve their workplace violence prevention security posture. Why wait until you are surprised by the former disgruntled employee or angry spouse; both preventable situations. MYTH…workplace violence is not preventable. TRUTH…there is no management commitment.

How? By conducting a critical assessments of your workplace violence prevention policies and workplace violence prevention programs to insure alignment with other existing policies, plans and procedures and identifying gaps in physical security and security management. Evaluate the training ROI (Return on Investment) to insure it’s meeting the intended objectives. Is the training addressing a particular concern? Is it customized to specifically address worksite specific risks? Is the training audience and content specific?

Most employees I speak with do not like computer based training that is not Branded or interactive. In fact, many do not like compliance training because they believe it’s designed to address workplace requirements and not their personnel safety and security concerns and needs.

Why a comprehensive assessment in the first place? It’s my experiences that the assessment results could very well give those involved the evidence needed to present it to the C-suite, the Executive Director, Superintendent and/or the Board of Directors.

A comprehensive assessment could very well uncover gaps in the existing prevention initiative that could help thwart the next homicidal threat, workplace suicide or intimate partner spillover into the workplace violence. Gaps may include access control, visitor management, and/or physical security and contracting policy.

Workplace violence prevention policies that do not address objectives, provide explanations of the prohibited behavior and organizational responsibilities to include workforce responsibilities, contribute more to ambiguity than prevention. Most policies tend to focus on the employee on employee and former employee threat and not the 4 Categories of Workplace Violence Prevention provided by OSHA.

Type #1: Criminal Intent This is when violence occurs and the perpetrator has no connection to the business or its employees, seeking merely to perform a crime that will likely involve physically harming someone. Most workplace homicides, as well as incidents of robbery, shoplifting, terrorism and even criminal trespass qualify.

Type #2: Customer/Client This happens when the perpetrator has an acceptable relationship with the business and becomes hostile while being served. While this can be perpetrated by any group being serviced by a business, the bulk of occurrence of this form of workplace violence tend to happen within the healthcare sector, in places like nursing homes and mental health facilities-the most common victim of this sort of harassment tend to be the caregivers of patients.

There is also a fair number of incidents of workplace violence being committed against police, flight attendants and educators. These three professions account for 3 percent of all workplace homicides.

Type #3: Worker vs. Worker This form of workplace violence arises when a current or former employee commits violence against another current or former employee. This category is responsible for 7 percent of workplace homicides.

Type #4: Personal Relationships In this type of workplace violence, the perpetrator is unconnected to the business but is connected to one of the victims. This is the sort of situation that arises when the victims of domestic violence have their violator show up to continue the unwanted attention at the job site. 5 percent of all work-related homicides would be considered this type.

To be comprehensive in approach and design, employer and educational institutions should strive to develop policies, plans, procedures and training that take into account worksite specific risks in addressing their  responsibilities to provide for a safe workplace not just the current employee or student threat.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (OSH Act) General Duty Clause essentially states that employers are required to provide a safe and healthful workplace for all workers covered by the OSH Act.

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3828.pdf

Employers who do not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate a recognized violence hazard in the workplace can be cited. Any hazard can be a person such as a current employee, former employee, disgruntled spouse, vendor, client, customer or non-employee posing a threat to workforce safety while in the performance of their jobs.

https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/generalsearch.citation_detail?id=314179649&cit_id=01001

Sometimes organizations overlook valuable internal data and/or other external data to support program objectives and initiatives.  For example, reviewing such data and considering its potential impact, proactive organizations can benefit by the analysis of pertinent information in helping organizations how best to prevent or minimize the threat of violence, understand circumstances, or even identify the next active shooter.

For example, statistical information pertaining to the 277 FBI-designated active shooter incidents that occurred in the United States from 2000 to 2018 offer valuable insight and analysis of where the emphasis or focus can be directed. https://www.fbi.gov/about/partnerships/office-of-partner-engagement/active-shooter-incidents-graphics

So Why wait for the next workplace or school place shooting? Prevention can take on a meaningful productive role when organizations take employee observations and reports seriously, do not overlook potential warning signs and roll out a credible reporting system.  Therfore, it’s important to promote and encourage the workforce to report their victimization and observations.

Preventing the homicidal threat of workplace violence begins by first addressing the nonfatal conduct that when left unabated leads to conflict and escalation. Or when the unintentional consequence of policies, assignments, personnel decisions, reorganizations, mandates or even mergers and acquisitions contribute to unhappy and disgruntled employee behaviors who make their displeasure known. Early intervention is key in avoiding escalation or being caught by surprise.

When the disgruntled employee transitions to the thoughts of homicidal violence, he has crossed the line of rational thinking, justifying their intended actions. As preventing workplace violence is an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies, organizations must design policies/plans that are flexible to engender empathy, and compassion in treating victims and witnesses with dignity and respect.

Why Wait? Why not strengthen your existing workplace violence prevention and security posture NOW? Appoint a program manager to be the “Go To Person” who helps the organization stay ahead of any surprises by working with the workforce to review existing conditions, confirm that training supports policies, plans and procedures and that creative training opportunities are exploited for maximizing the training value. You might call this person the “Threat Manager” or “Workforce Protection Manager”

To insure an organizational commitment and investment, senior managers can implement leadership and management strategies that integrate specific resources, efforts and tools in combating the threat of workplace violence. Until there is an alignment between performance, responsibility, accountability and consequences the workplace violence prevention policy will be seen as a management disciplinary tool.

Workplace Violence Prevention remains an essential workplace initiative for all organizations, no matter their size or scope, and the key to successful workplace violence prevention and incident management is thorough, thoughtful development of human resource-security metrics and ongoing analysis.

While data alone will not be successful on its own, worksite specific data can help managers point to areas of concern in addressing critical prevention through actionable information employees can consume, understand and relate to. Policy not supported by the above is wasteful use of time, resources and budgeting.

While I may suggest that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, I am a realist and recognize that the pressure to produce is always top priority in American businesses. Time away from the desk for training is viewed as time away from production and revenue generation and courses that contribute directly to regulatory compliance always have first dibs on the budget.  However, Courts want to hear about the employer’s sincere efforts not excuses around budgets, schedules and resources, In the end the juries  want to know if the serious injury or fatality was preventable by taking reasonable risk mitigation measures.

To maximize the time, resources and budgeting, plan the training to insure it is workforce and worksite specific. Workplace violence should mean different things to a mechanic working in a vehicle maintenance facility; an employee working in a retail establishment; a service provider on a customer’s property trying to locate downed power lines; a nurse in a custodial care mental health unit, an armored car driver, a social worker at a client’s home, or a medical insurance provider traveling between locations alone, employees at a plant working with temporary employees and or employees working at a headquarters office setting.

Employers and educational institutions can enjoy a credible workplace prevention initiative if the effort is comprehensive and tied to integration, collaboration, coordination, communication, technology, leadership, supervision and training.

Chances are that you do not believe workplace violence is an issue at your workplace but why take the chance?

Lockdown Drills & Kids: Teaching Lifesaving Skills to Children of All Abilities…

Posted on: April 19th, 2019

As a workplace security consultant specializing in workplace violence prevention, what I do with the Client must create sustainability long after I am gone. Organizational resources must be considered when developing training content. The need to be as realistic must not outweigh the organization’s capabilities to sustain the effort.

School and workplace violence response strategies and tactics are important but at what expense? Should the “training approach” to active shooter be one designed around the means justifies the end or around creating the best retentive value around the execution of thoughtful programming that encourages and promotes quality training objectives?

Should those involved be traumatizing students, staff and workers for the purpose of making training as realistic as possible? According to the research the facts are not clear. In the 25 plus years I have been exposed to workplace violence and workplace violence prevention, it’s been my intentional desire to create training that stimulated learning and motivated retention of the content based on mutually collaborative experiences. The idea is to design training with organizational effectiveness in mind.

A recent “active shooter” drill in Indiana made my skin crawl. As someone who came from a military and law enforcement background, I was horrified to discover that local law enforcement officers told teachers to kneel along a wall while they were shot execution style with plastic bullets trying to demonstrate reality.

This is exactly what happens when corporate leaders and school superintendents fail to involve themselves in the decision-making process while leaving it up to others to decide what’s good for your school or workplace environments. Any role I may play as a security consultant must be predicated on organizational input and desired outcomes.

For example, how may reading this blog have been instructed on management responsibilities, prolonged lockdown issues, special needs and family support preparation considerations and planning related to an active shooter? Probably a few, maybe! You know why? Simply because there is a lack of experience based and knowledge centered training and consulting taking place today more than ever without specific facts.

In my interest to give the active shooter training challenge credibility and perspective, I am always seeking to find professionals with a unique and  thoughtful education and learning methodology that serves to create understanding and responsible actions.

In some instances schools are already described as prison comps by students, teachers and parents as environments that expose students to other risks, say parents who speak under anonymity. I don’t say eliminate the training but rather suggest that such training be thoughtful and deliberate.

This issue of my blog highlights the efforts of Guest Blogger Rachel Tepfer Copeland and her child’s experience during a preschool lock down exercise. You must know that my blogs often attracts direct phone calls from interested readers and concerned victims, witnesses and observers who have value to add, offer support and their services.

Rachel Tepher Copeland a Certified Child Life Specialist struck me as the type of guest blog contributor I desire to collaborate with because of the value and lessons that can be learned from such experiences, if we are to be a part of the solution in supporting the need for quality active shooter and lock down training moving forward.

Such training should not exploit the school or the workplace’s fears. It’s my opinion that active shooter drills marginally, if at all improve safety of teachers, students and workers, while exposing them to mental trauma and physical injury. The decision to bring in local police trainers or to hire the expert consultant should be predicated on past performance, knowledge of content, delivery capability and desired outcomes. There are states like Iowa, Florida and South Carolina and others interested in passing laws requiring these drills in public schools. I agree with the training need but disagree with the mandate for a variety of reasons implied and addressed in this blog.

Here’s Rachel Tepher Copeland and her preshooler’s experience for your information.

Rachel:

One afternoon I went to pick up my son from preschool and he was very obviously shaken and upset. A generally chatty guy, I was concerned when he had a difficult time telling me what had happened.

The most I could gather was that the class had played a strange game where the children had hidden in the dark behind backpacks. Then it dawned on me, it was a lock-down drill. The more questions I asked my son, the more concerned I became. We quickly turned the car around and headed back to speak with the preschool director of the highly vetted private preschool he attended.

After further conversation, I found that my son had become scared, overwhelmed and upset during the drill because he did not know or understand what was happening. He did not feel comfortable hiding with the class in the tight quarters and became upset. In an effort to make him more comfortable, the teachers removed him from the bathroom and placed him, alone, in the darkened classroom.

He was told to hide behind a backpack located right next to the large window and to stay there until someone came back for him. Then the teachers went back inside the bathroom with the other children and locked the door. I was furious. I was heartbroken. But more than anything, I was scared.

As a Certified Child Life Specialist since 2004, my job has always been to talk to children about scary and overwhelming situations and make them easier to understand. Reading books to children is an amazing way to take something terrifying and make it relatable, especially for the very young. Social stories are one of my favorite means of preparing children for difficult situations. I love social stories because they are perfect for children of any ability, as they are a positive, empowering story written in first person language, which encourages and empowers children to learn new difficult skills.

After my son’s horrific experience, I searched everywhere for a book with easy to understand directions that would be appropriate for my son to learn about lock-downs and how to keep himself safe. However, no matter where I looked, I could only find books for much older children.

There was nothing age appropriate or all-encompassing in a social story format. Additionally, all of the resources I found discussed option-based teaching (i.e. run, hide, fight).

While these are sometimes successful options for adults, options-based teaching is neither developmentally appropriate nor feasible for young children or children with special needs.

After searching the market and finding it bare, I decided to write my own book for my son. Originally, I created a single copy of the book I Can Be A Superhero During A Lockdown just for him, however, after another major school shooting occurred only miles from our home, I decided to self-publish it and make it available to anyone who might also find it helpful.

I Can Be A Superhero During A Lockdown is now an Amazon best seller and has been endorsed by several safety organizations, including Safe and Sound Schools and Safe Havens Interventional.

I am proud to have created a resource that helps to decrease anxiety while also teaching children of all developmental abilities how to remain safe. My website, RachelTepferCopeland.com , also provides tips and information for parents and educators about lockdowns.

My son is very proud of the book we have created- in fact the main character is a cartoon replica of him. He no longer has issues during lockdowns and was able to complete a drill successfully without any problems.

Many children, however, are not as lucky. While necessary, lockdown drills themselves cause trauma to young children—the recent viral picture of a child with a goodbye note written on her arm to her parents only one example.

As educators, parents, safety professionals, and professionals that work with children, we need to remember that providing age appropriate and child-friendly information to children about what to expect and how to respond is respectful of children, their feelings and needs.

To ignore the situation, to assume that it is just like other drills that children complete regularly or to compare it to duck and cover drills of more seasoned parents’ youth is not the same.

A recent Washington Post report revealed that during the 2017-2018 school year alone, over 4.1 million children enduring a lock-down drill. Over 220,000 of those children were in pre-school and kindergarten. We have the choice of either preparing our children in advance or dealing with the after affects of the trauma they suffer.

I’ve chosen to preemptively prepare my child and to teach him what to do if he was to ever face a true active situation. We all have a choice to make. We can either sit around and read about the horrific things that are happening in our company and wonder “when are things going to change? When is somebody going to do something about that?!”

Or we can each realize that we ARE somebody. Teaching young children how to keep themselves safe while decreasing anxiety is something that you can do right now. And there’s no day better than the present to make a difference, and maybe even save some lives.

Felix:

It’s my opinion as a workplace security management consultant specializing in workplace violence prevention that students and employees should not be exposed to physical or traumatic injury just to create a training reality. Such training should be tied to the organizational prevention strategy that takes all of the related issues into consideration as life survival immediate protective measures.

They should be designed to educate and prepare those involved to respond appropriately in a way that empowers them to react with a measured sense of command and control of their situation. A dad of a middle schooler told me that his son told him that it made no sense to run back to his classroom when it made more sense to exit through the nearby doors.

 

Another Workplace Shooting at the Henry Pratt Company, Aurora, IL, February 16, 2019 Leaves Five Current Employees Dead and 5 Police Officers Wounded

Posted on: March 6th, 2019

How confident are you really with your Workplace Violence Prevention initiative?

Another Workplace Shooting, Friday, February 16, 2019 at the Henry Pratt Company, Aurora, IL.  It’s been about 3 weeks since this shooting and I worry that there will be another. You want to know why? Simply because employers really believe that “termination” is the solution to the “disgruntled problem employee”.  Managers do not lead, they create – yes, they create resentment and hostility by the unintended consequences of their actions.

 

How many organizations have protocols in place for “terminations”? Is there a process that attempts to salvage rather than to discard? Are these “problem employees” treated with dignity and respect or like they are easily replaceable?  Do managers rely on a stroke of the pen to eliminate the problem? And does control and  cockiness influences their “false sense of security”? to believe that deletion of their “access privileges” will prevent the re-entry into the workplace at a date and time of their choice?  The only “workplace security mindset” they may have is the one that says we can call the police if the employee gets out of line. This mentality does not lead to a healthy police-workplace relationship.

 

Just because employers do not have protocols or processes in place doesn’t mean the disgruntled current or former employee doesn’t have a plan of their own. Stop assuming! Could it be that every time the separated employee returned to address a separation issue, to meet with the union representative or to correct compensation disputes the “problem employee” was in fact developing his own “risk assessment plan”? When employers mistreat the employee they actually plant the seed that germinates in their hearts and minds that rationalizes and justifies their anger. Failure to address the “problem employee’s” issues or management’s reluctance to deal effectively with the situation fuels the anger and waters the seeds of justification and rationalization.

 

While the anger may not result in “shooting up the workplace or the school place” the disgruntled employee can sabotage your operations, machinery or systems; call in false fire alarms and bomb threats; vandalize personal property like cars and do much more despicable acts that “satisfies their urge to get even.  I have been involved such despicable acts of retaliation in the past. What about the victim of bullying who doesn’t see any resolution and decides to take matters into their own hands? Sound familiar? If it does, it reminds me of the student who resorts to violence.

 

Gary Martin, the alleged Henry Pratt Company employee involved in this shooting with a history of violence was able to obtain an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card despite his felony record a gap in that system allowed Martin to apply for his concealed carry permit that ultimately triggered the discovery of his criminal history and revocation of the FOID. There was no indication the guns were ever confiscated only the post shooting investigation will prove that to be the case. Martin reportedly had been convicted for beating his girlfriend with a baseball bat and served prison time. The same individual had successfully circumvented State of Illinois firearms purchase laws and possibly procured the firearm used in the killing of 5 former co-workers and wounding 5 police officers. This same individual had been hired by the firm involved.  So what went wrong in the hiring process? Was this a management hiring decision where Martin was given an opportunity or a negligent hiring example?

 

Whatever the reasoning, I caught up with Gary Thompson; Director of Physical Security at Aaron’s whose profound statement stayed with me. He said, “the incident happened before it started.” Let me ask you. Could a Threat Assessment team process been instrumental as a significant part of an effective workplace violence prevention initiative? I think so! Workplace violence prevention is an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies of which Threat Assessment plays a significant prevention role.

 

Shootings like this reflect a horrific example of how little is understood and applied in the prevention of workplace violence. The focus is placed on the workforce level as if they have the ability to implement strategies and influence the process.  Workplace violence prevention involves an ongoing process that includes multiple intervention strategies designed to identify contributing factors, interdict and prevent escalation at the early stages and identify predisposition by reviewing personnel records and assessing current potential and capability. It also includes employee involvement but is their input valued? Threat Assessment is a significant component of the workplace violence prevention initiative that by design allows for my process of integration, collaboration, coordination of effort and resources and effective communications, leadership and execution in assessing and evaluating potential threats.

 

Workplace must seek to collaborate their resources in a coordinated spirit where communication silos are dismantled.  Organizations have a legal and moral responsibility to implement and manage thoughtful workplace security strategy and tactics that are supported by training and shared experiences that help the workforce connect the dots. Anticipation of problems and recognition of responsible courses of actions is vital in prevention and root cause analysis. Post shooting observations and discussions are helpful moving forward but too late and preventing the shooting, allegations of negligence in hiring, training and management policies. What’s your workplace’s current posture?

 

It is essential to conduct work-site specific assessments to have an understanding of risk mitigation measures so as to prevent and avoid future problems and if not to be in a proactive position to minimize personnel and business risks. Innovative and creative separation protocols might have minimized the Henry Pratt Company outcome through the implementation of proper procedures that help reduce conflict by educating all involved, including union personnel. However, remember that discipline and separation should be part of the planning process where in the end all involved are being held accountable without surprises.  It should include assessment of current management practices and company culture to identify contributory practices or approaches that may have unintentional consequences or not necessary.  Introduce innovative and creative separation protocols intended for smooth separations and disciplinary outcomes.   Workplace violence prevention strategies should empower workplaces and educational institutions in avoiding the surprise active shooter

 

Planned scheduled training is key in connecting the dots! But not just training to satisfy annual training requirements. Training should be appropriate in content and audience specific and designed to bring about specific changes or improvements.  Training in warning signs and risk factors must be supported by examples and be scenario based.  Challenge the trainer to develop content and methods that promote memory learning and retention through situational awareness. The creation of the workplace violence prevention mindset is the primary objective of a solid training objective. The idea is to engage the organization proactively, supervisors doing their thing and management playing enforcer of the policies, protocols and rules. Employees who understand their roles, responsibilities and consequences of not reporting observations or victimization become proactive participants.

 

This shooting is sad and preventable.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/02/16/man-kills-five-warehouse-shooting-spree-shortly-after-being-fired-illinois-police-say/

 

So I ask these questions.

 

Does your organization manage the threat of workplace or school violence by REACTION or PREVENTION?  REACTION is operating under the myths it won’t happen here or that workplace violence is not preventable and when it happens the police are called. PREVENTION is a management and employee commitment and investment that designs proactive policies supported by quantifiable training and supporting plans, procedures and protocols.

 

Does your workplace violence prevention policy follow the OSHA Five Factors in developing and managing an effective workplace violence prevention program?

 

Management Commitment and Worker Participation—OSHA deems management responsible for controlling hazards by, among other things, urging all levels of management to become deeply involved in all aspects of the workplace violence prevention program, and worker participation should be required because workers can help identify and assess workplace hazards;

Worksite Analysis and Hazard Identification—management and workers are called upon to work together to assess records, existing procedures, and operations for jobs, employee surveys, and workplace security analyses;

 

Hazard Prevention and Control—after the worksite analysis is complete, employers should take appropriate steps to prevent or control the identified hazards and periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the chosen controls and improve, expand, or update them, as needed;

 

Safety and Health Training—all workers (including contractors and temporary employees) should receive training on the workplace violence prevention program at least annually and, in particularly high-risk settings, as often as monthly or quarterly to effectively reach and inform all workers; and

 

Recordkeeping and Program Evaluation—OSHA logs of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses,  worker injury reports, information regarding patients with a history of violence, and other documents reflecting trends or patterns at the workplace should be studied and the effectiveness of the workplace violence prevention program should be frequently evaluated and improved, as necessary.

 

In closing, workplace violence prevention must have a methodology.  Communications, Collaboration and Coordination are essential ingredients in developing the workplace violence prevention mindset.  The issues and problems revealed in the Henry Pratt Company shootings were preventable workplace homicides. Expecting different outcomes but doing the same thing will not result in an effective prevention mindset.

 

Living assumptions add to the confusion.  Training by assumptions reinforces the confusion. Workplace violence should mean different things to a clerk working third shift in a convenience store, a nurse in a custodial care mental health unit, an armored car driver, or a manager at the headquarters of a financial services firm.

 

The employer or educational institution’s workplace violence prevention initiative will be more credible – and more likely to succeed – if they have a clear idea that’s clearly conveyed to every employee. The idea is to have employees that feel safe, have confidence in management’s commitment and who when called to be a witness in a civil liability law suit will represent the company or educational institution in the best of circumstances.

 

So what is your workplace attempting to accomplish by the workplace violence prevention policy – discipline or prevention?

 

Dispelling 3 Common Myths about Workplace Violence Prevention and Workplace Security

Posted on: August 3rd, 2018

When I speak with people about the topic of workplace violence prevention, their responses indicate their understanding of what constitutes workplace violence prevention.

“Our Zero Tolerance Policy addresses our workplace violence prevention efforts”.

“Management deals with such problems with discipline and if necessary we terminate the problem employees.”

“We call the police when we have a situation we can’t handle.”

“Security problems that our employees have in the community are referred to the police.”

What I hear are cookie-cutter responses because workplace violence consist of physical violence and non-violence related behaviors like harassment, bullying, name calling, verbal abuse, intimidation, threatening conduct, stalking, sabotage and cyber security threats. It is not waiting for the homicidal incident! OSHA documents about 2 million such incidents annually. We believe that number is much higher simply because it is underreported as workplace violence.

In short, what I hear is a rational that seems devoid of an articulated top down organizational workplace or school prevention and violence response strategy. It appears that prevention is based on assumptions, convenient decisions and expedient actions.

They seem not to know what they don’t know and convinced themselves they know – “Doing the same thing over & over, expecting different results.”

Here are the 3 of the most common myths most often applied over the years:

MYTH #1: Workplace violence will not happen here.

“Too many workplace cultures subscribe” to the theory that Zero Tolerance puts employees on notice that such behavior will not be tolerated. Experience has shown that employees are reluctant to report their co-workers if it means disciplinary action. Others believe that their background screening will help them hire the right person. Truth is that background screening cannot predict what an employee with diminished coping skills will do in the future in managing conflict. So applying the “walk like a duck it is a duck” euphemism may not apply in addressing workplace violence. Best Practices have a place so long as they are not applied as a blanket solution without adaptability and flexibility.

Some organizations believe that employing armed guards will discourage the homicidal threat of violence. The question I always pose is who protects the workplace against the lone armed guard. The solution is not the lone armed guard but the prevention strategy.

With the emphasis on the homicidal threat of violence the nonfatal acts of violence are treated as employee misconduct and improperly addressed. Contributing factors are rarely identified because the focus is on the employee misconduct and not “why” the employee became aggressive, confrontational or threatening. So while the focus may be on the active shooter threat, we forget to focus on prevention to identify the contributing factors that might very well lead to such aggression and a civil liability suit for failing to foresee a recognizable hazard.

Assumptions about workplace violence and the value of prevention nullify the thinking required in the development of a comprehensive holistic workplace violence prevention program intended to be proactive.

MYTH #2: Workplace violence is not preventable.

This myth more or so applies to the threat posed by the non-employee opportunistic criminal, armed robber or domestic violence/intimate partner violence threat but should not apply to the employee threat. The employee threat is PREVENTABLE. There are workplaces that subscribe to the common belief, at least in part to the notion that the disgruntled employee is hard to detect and therefore hard to deal with. As such, workplaces do not invest in developing adequate prevention strategies, measures and procedures to proactively engage prevention measures. The reasoning may defer to this belief due to expediency in their efforts because it may lack senior management commitment and investment in proper training and alignment of resources.

Creating a culture of organizational responsibility, accountability and leadership can go a long way towards building employee trust and confidence in reporting their observations. Key is to create employee engagement based on credibility in reporting, accountability and supervision so that witnesses and victims can believe proper action will be taken. .

MYTH #3: We have workplace violence under control.

We have things under control is the typical response I’ve heard from larger organizations that believe they have matters under control and they very well may have. In speaking with some of their representatives, I am impressed by the level of commitment and investment. While they  rely on their Zero Tolerance Policy there appears to be a coordinated effort between Human Resources, Security and other departments. However, I wonder how many of such organizations have actually surveyed their workforce in receiving actual feedback? In order to tap into their workplace realities, management must ask the workforce about their experiences and actual impressions in evaluating the organization’s workplace violence prevention posture. Transparency in responding to employee reports and complaints will give the prevention effort credibility.

Maximize the Prevention Value through Multiple Intervention Strategies

Prevention is directly linked to how organizations intentionally manage the workplace violence prevention policy/plan/program. Workplaces and educational institutions that make a management commitment and deliberate investment in applying Multiple Intervention Strategies will have a clear advantage over those that live in a world of ‘MYTHs”.  Deferring issues and situations to their local law enforcement rather than investing in a proactive workplace violence prevention initiative may expose their liability.

Supervision, coaching, counseling, EAP, training, and performance improvement plans are examples of Multiple Intervention Strategies that may avert disaster. I find “Employee Engagement” as a new component of a Multiple Intervention Strategy from the standpoint of an engaged workforce built on employee trust and confidence. “Employee Engagement” is measurable. For example, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion dollars each year.

According to Accenture, less than 50% of CFO appear to understand the ROI (Return on Investment) in human capital. Could this perception play a role in supporting a strong argument for why the above myths exist today? After all, by understanding and measuring the threat of workplace violence against poor productivity and performance, medical and injury compensation and time and attendance, impact on the organization’s bottom-line can be measured along with identifying ROI.

I think correlation is significant in helping to understand impact. The World Health Organization reports that stress cost American Business an estimated $300 billion annually. On the other hand, workplace violence is estimated to cost $121 billion annually. One can safely conclude that stress is a by-product of harassment, bullying and other related behaviors. Time away from work results in an average of 3.5 lost days per workplace violence incident recorded. Out of court civil law suit settlements average $500,000  Nonfatal assaults results in 876,000 lost work days annually. How do these areas help your organization develop your own metrics?

In Closing…

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Would you agree that by understanding the “WHAT, HOW and WHY” of workplace violence prevention and understanding and measuring employee satisfaction, productivity and impact on the bottom-line, effective programs can be developed and managed? Drawing a correlation between workplace violence prevention and employee engagement can help enhance the organizational response and begin to appreciate the value of proactive intervention. Hasty intervention and speedy response to employee complaints and observations will help organizations avoid being surprised by the active shooter. Remember that a workplace or school active shooter is a failed workplace or school violence prevention policy.

Active Shooter a Microcosm of Our Society Impacting Workplace Safety and Security

Posted on: January 25th, 2017

Intro by Felix Nater…

In this article my Special Guest Blogger, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood, author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, and I collaborate to draw correlations between the threat of workplace homicides and the societal impact the active shooter and mass shooter has on everyone  no matter where we might find  ourselves.

 

Since we spend as much time at work as we do away from home, we believe whatever violence response training workplaces can provide must be as comprehensive and realistic as possible.

When workplaces make decisions to train on “Run, Hide and Fight” employers must understand that policies plans and procedures must be aligned. Can you tell an employee to fight as a measure of last resort when your workplace violence prevention policy says fighting or acts of aggression are against the policy?  This contradiction might freeze decisions and appropriate responses. Just saying!

 

When we tell the employee to run without proper training the employee might run into the shooter or while running away might be shot. Is there the possibility of creating unintentional civil liability consequences, which a skillful attorney might exploit during a civil lawsuit emanating from a serious injury or wrongful death allegation? I don’t know! What do you think?

 

It’s like “Zero Tolerance”–a well-intended policy but maybe too rigid and too structured. The employee who notices a co-worker exhibiting warning signs rationalizes his observations before reporting a co-worker knowing that his co-worker can be disciplined and even fired.

 

I do not encourage that workplaces undertake a frequency of an impractical training schedule on active shooter drills just because it is the right way to train. My point is that current training may not be addressing the workplace responsibilities or properly addressing the tactical common sense decisions needed to be taken.

 

What I do encourage is thoughtful training that realistically connects employee and management responsibilities and expectations. Training which fails to articulate what occurs in a real world shooting incident, and which only pushes out information, will assuredly produce more conflict, confusion, and misunderstanding, and increase risk for those involved.

Mike and I served in the military, where vital survival skills were reinforced through intensive,  repetitive training in order to make them more reflexive.  We understand that employers lack the time and resources to train to this standard, and it’s not realistic to expect that a workplace training program will build ” muscle memory” that makes responses automatic.

My law enforcement career as a United States Postal Inspector / Firearms Instructor and Threat Management Coordinator exposed me to realities typically encountered in the law enforcement community associated with serving search warrants, making arrests, car stops and training law enforcement personnel in scenarios they are most likely to encounter. Inherent in these scenarios are behaviors that must be understood and multiple simultaneous actions that must take place.

 

Well the same thing happens to employees or shoppers during a shooting incident. The “brain freezes” not intentionally but because there’s no stored information that the reflexes can draw upon. Fear overcomes the moment. There are tactics one can take to manage the moment that are not difficult to train to but can help the recovery process during the initial sounds of hysteria. When I audit this training I cringe at the lack of substance and correlation.

 

Suffice to say that we have expertise and specialized skills unlikely to be found in most workplaces. As such, training “employees” needs to create a training objective that allows employees to understand their actions, how to act out independently or in concert during the escape, evasion, evacuation procedures.

 

Because time, money and resources are limitations, training must bring clarity to what it is participants are most likely to encounter, what they need to “Know, Do and Why”. Absent clarity in the content presented will not improve survival and only add to the confusion.  There are tactics employees can take before encountering the shooter and encountering the police.

 

I am saying that training in active shooter / hostile intruder should be informative, enlightening, educational and realistic. To have real world value such training must empower the employee to know what to do and why, no matter where they may find themselves during an active shooting or mass shooting incident. If you are in a movie theater you know how to minimize risk. When caught in a mall or department store or open area know how to make better decisions.

 

* * * * *

Thoughts by Mike Wood…

The New Year had hardly begun when a terrorist killed scores in a shooting attack on an Istanbul nightclub, and we hadn’t even completed the first full month of 2017 when another shooter killed five and wounded more here in our own country, at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

 

While both of these attacks were horrific, neither was completely unexpected by those who were paying attention to the world around them.  We didn’t know the specifics of when and where the next “active shooter” attacks would take place, but we could be confident that they were on the way, in the same manner that we can predict there will be more to come.

 

We live in a world where the threats of attacks like these are ever-present.  Here in America, we have an increasingly violent criminal class which has become emboldened by failed public policies and the virulent anti-law enforcement culture which has taken hold in some communities.  Our mental healthcare system is broken, leaving untold numbers of emotionally disturbed persons, including many with violent tendencies, without access to proper care and supervision.  Additionally, there are a burgeoning number of foreign and domestic terrorists who would use violence to advance their political and cultural aims. In fact, our intelligence agencies have warned us that small-scale, asymmetric attacks like the Istanbul or Fort Lauderdale ones, are a preferred method of our enemy because they have a large impact while demanding very little in the way of resources or planning.

 

With all of these potential actors in play, it takes no imagination whatsoever to forecast that more attacks are coming.

 

So, what should you do about it?

 

The most important thing is to get your mind right. Accept the fact that it can happen to you. Doing so will help you to avoid the paralyzing effects of denial, and free your mind to solve important problems, should you find yourself subject to attack. Would you rather stand frozen in shock in the wake of an attack, or take immediate action to save yourself and others? The choice is yours to make, and it begins now with an acceptance of reality, and the appropriate programming of the mind.

 

Accepting that you could be the target of attack will allow you to change your behaviors in a positive and proactive way.  If you’re conscious of risk, then you’ll become more aware of your environment, and will do a better job of detecting and avoiding potential trouble. You’ll see the threats and indicators that people who walk around with their noses stuck to smart phone screens won’t, and you’ll have the time to avoid them. You’ll also do a better job of weighing costs and benefits, allowing you to avoid some unnecessary risks entirely, by opting out of the activities that would needlessly subject you to them.

 

Despite our best efforts to detect and avoid problems, trouble still has a way of finding us at times. In those cases, the more prepared we are to deal with trouble, the better off we will be.

 

From the perspective of mindset, we need to train ourselves that in an emergency (whether it’s a fire, a medical situation, or an attack), we will be active participants in our own rescue. If we are in danger, we must immediately take action to either remove ourselves from the threat, or terminate the threat, as conditions warrant. It would be nice to have help with this, but we cannot count on it, and we cannot delay our response until we receive it.  There is nobody who is more responsible for your personal safety than you, so you must take the lead role in rescuing yourself from danger.

 

Make that commitment now.  Train yourself to look for avenues of escape when you enter a room. Refresh yourself with the locations of alarms or emergency equipment in your workplace. Make mental notes of the things in your environment that could serve as cover, concealment, or makeshift weapons. Give yourself the permission to use righteous force in the defense of yourself or others. Mentally rehearse your response to an active threat. Take classes to educate yourself in first aid and self-defense, and ensure you have access to lifesaving equipment.

 

Do these things now, while you have the time and resources.  We know that more trouble is on the way, so the only question is whether or not you’ll be a victor or a victim when it comes.

-Mike

 

 

What Does Workplace Violence Prevention Mean to You?

Posted on: September 9th, 2015

First off, what does your workplace violence prevention efforts look like to you? Is it a living document, a policy supported by plans and procedures? Is it reinforced with appropriate training? Can it withstand an unannounced OSHA Inspection? You have to be honest with yourselves in answering these questions if, you really want to dump the old and start out with the new ways of looking at WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION. An effective approach clarifies expectations, provides examples and implements policies, plans and procedures.

I am emphasizing the reliance on the helpful OSHA definitions, tools and support. I am asking you to create a proactive organizational response that reinforces their effort with the OSHA Workplace Violence Prevention guidance in developing your own prevention response. I think OSHA has been ahead of the game for years, it’s just that some of us worry about other people’s statistics and what others were doing instead of worrying about what your organization (workplace / educational institution) should have been doing at your own workplace setting.   

It doesn’t matter whether you are a school, college, university, processing or production plant, warehouse, government organization, office building, hospital, movie theater, mall or news station, you should consider a plan to prevent the threat of violence and minimize the risk of violence from a disgruntled coworker, intimate partner spillover into the workplace or the opportunistic criminal during an armed robbery or physical attack.  The plan must begin with an understanding of what WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION IS. While the belief is that larger organizations are adequately prepared, startups, small and midsize businesses are not immune from addressing workplace violence prevention. Their risk are higher when it comes to recovery and business continuity.”

Investing in a serious commitment to WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is not a joke. You must first accept the reality that workplaces have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to provide for a safe and secure workplace for your workforce and stakeholders.  We are not just talking about employee on employee violence but, non-employee on employee violence and violence associated with armed robberies and other crimes of opportunity by criminals. However the tendency to wait for the “if” it happens will not allow you to have an effective WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION initiative. It requires a proactive mindset. Thinking about the minor nonviolent psychological incidents that can escalate and lead to conflict and confrontations tomorrow must be addressed today. These are known existing hazards that OSHA refers to in their regulations.

How many workplaces can honestly say that they design prevention measures intended to address the current employee threat, the former employee threat and or the domestic or intimate partner workplace spillover violence threat?  How many workplaces actually provide their field personnel, sales personnel and repairmen orientations and training on responsible behavior and risk mitigation measures?  That’s prevention at its best or its worst. How engaged is your Workplace Violence Prevention initiative? What are you waiting for?

So what does WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION mean to YOU? What does your program look like? Is it proactive or reactive?  A proactive WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION policy requires an investment in training your workforce in ways that help them understand what workplace violence is, what is the meaning of prevention and how to respond to non-violent at risk situations as well as violent threat posed by current and former coworkers and an active shooter or hostile intruder? How many CEOs, COOs, HR or Security Directors know that WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is an ongoing process that involves multiple intervention strategies? A mouth full? YES! BUT, PREVENTION by it definition is the act of preventing.

So if prevention is the action of prevention it implies enthusiasm in what we do. Thus, enthusiasm and being proactive go hand in hand. Hence prevention is the process of preventing workplace violence.”  

If you know that you have a problem employee, remote employee workforce, employees that deliver service related customer services or that often engage with the public, you have an obligation to increase the employee’s ability to protect themselves and make independent decisions in the face of danger or how to recognize warning signs and at risk situations and personnel. With knowledge and awareness of prevention measures the workforce is empowered to make better decisions about managing the outcome when dealing with disciplinary issues, employee misconduct or at risk conditions. Remember! Prevention requires responsible supervision and leadership. Do not treat discipline as a “GOTCHA” because it can GET YOU.

Workplace Violence Prevention can run the gamut and is only limited by the program manager’s lack of enthusiasm, commitment and imagination. But for the sake of this discussion let’s throw out  a few multiple intervention strategies and tactics that could save the day: positive communications, engaged leadership, effective supervision, performance coaching, EAP counseling, managing one’s  behavior, approach to situations, engaging customers, working in high crime areas, traveling, entering building and elevators just to name a few.

Proper WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is comprehensive but should not be complicated even though we know that workplace violence is a complex societal and environment reality. Nevertheless, WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is a proactive process that focuses on the “when” and not the “if”.  Preparing for the “if” makes an assumption that the likelihood of any violence occurring is a small risk not worth spending our money on waiting for something to happen.  The thought seems to be that   “if” an act of violence or serious threat should happen we can call in the police to handle the threat. Whether your organization designs a methodological approach or defers capabilities to external consultants and the local police, the workforce must understand relevant terms in avoiding assumptions. Connecting the dots does not happen in a vacuum. It emanates from training content that supports the policy, plans and procedures in helping the workforce relate to warning signs, aggression, predisposition and opportunity. Leaving clarity to the workforce will not result in early warning or a proactive response. It becomes a wait and see attitude.

This is a bad attitude that will not only place the workforce at risk but place your unprepared approach in a collision course with a civil liability law suit, bad press or bad publicity. 

This  wait and see attitude is exactly what you do not want to be associated with. This attitude increases personnel risk and organizational risk as victims and witnesses will assuredly tell it like it is on the witness stand of truth. We know where to find the skeletons and in which closets they are hiding in.  I don’t know of any hard-working, trusting employee who when confronted with answering questions about a workplace injury or fatality will graciously protect their employer in the face of a charge of willful negligence. Don’t be fooled that loyalty is your payoff.  When co-workers are seriously injured by a workplace offender or killed incident to an active shooter or armed robbery encounter your trusted workforce will come out of the woodwork or be found by a sharp reporter working the crowd. 

Such a trusted employee witness will reluctantly tell his or her side of the story because they’ve known you’ve never taken WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION seriously.

Being compliant is a good thing but, it is NOT PREVENTION. CRISIS MANAGEMENT IS NOT PREVENTION. Think of WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION as your workplace security insurance policy. In remembering the old Lee Myles Transmission advertisement, “Pay me now or pay me later” can easily apply in workplaces that were too smart for their bridges, too cost conscientious  or who decided that workplace violence prevention could wait until next year’s budget.  Don’t even think that way today.

Workplace Violence – A Reality of Real Proportions

Posted on: February 8th, 2015

Since 1989 statistics and surveys generated by the American Society of Safety Engineers, Pinkerton, the Conference Board and other prominent organizations have consistently reported that workplace violence was a workplace security threat. In the years following September 11, 2001, Workplace Violence  remains a Reality of Real Proportions.  Workplace Violence remained in the top three categories of workplace security concerns: Workplace Violence, Business Continuity, Terrorism and Computer-Based Crimes in that order.

If workplace violence is truly a concern, can we imply by the surveys that companies are in denial or lack the resources to address the threat?

Is the counsel and advise requested falling short of viable solutions and tools available to workplaces? While technology alone is the not the solution to workplace violence prevention, proactive intervention strategies that include technology can create creditable value in the hearts and minds of the workforce.

In terms of viable alternatives,  on October 5, 2011, ASIS International and SHRM Released a Joint Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention ANSI Standard ASIS/SHRM Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention American National Standard aimed at helping organizations implement policies and practices to more quickly identify threatening behavior and violence affecting the workplace, and to engage in effective incident management and resolution.

The new Standard reflects a consensus from professionals in the fields of security, human resources, mental health, law enforcement, and legal. It serves as an important tool to help organizations evaluate current practices; develop or enhance workplace violence prevention and intervention programs; and effectively manage post-incident issues. So why aren’t workplaces familiar with this document and the value it offers? Can we defend our actions in the aftermath of a major workplace or school incident?

Does Your Firm Have a specific policy on Workplace Violence Prevention?

Could the lack of a coordinated response be the real threat to workplace safety in preventing workplace violence or has the discussion of probability justified no response or a limited response? I reluctantly say I think so. Though the decision to commit resources is certainly a thoughtful one, can a misunderstanding of what constitutes incidents of workplace violence be at the head of the discussion? How are workplace violence prevention consultants selected? Do we ask for verifiable proof of past performance or rely on warm and cozy feelings of compatibility when critical thinking should be the objective?

In reviewing employee handbooks on misconduct, a lack of specific references on the topic of workplace violence is evident. Often times relative references appear in different section throughout the handbooks without any specific mention or a dedicated section to workplace violence. Either the contributors to such handbooks are misinformed or just defining the behavior as “misconduct” under an umbrella clause? Whatever the reason(s), employees do not know what to report or why they are being cited. Could it be that no one on staff knows what constitutes workplace violence?

In reviewing newspaper accounts of recent workplace shooting incidents they appear to to cry out for intervention and prevention measures that might have had different outcomes.  Are these shooting incidents preventable? One familiar with prevention strategies could be in a better position to recognize the need for swift and appropriate interdiction and begin applying multiple intervention solutions. While the denial might be an unintentional consequence  of corporate misunderstandings, I submit that employers are concerned but might lack the awareness, understanding and the technical expertise. What can we do?

Applying Basic Strategies Might Help To Reduce the Threat.

Because most workplaces are unique, we recommend that you avoid the cookie-cutter mentality to deploying Workplace Security & Workplace Violence Prevention Strategies. When the approach is based on attempting to apply the cookie-cutter approach, one will miss the value of conducting unique work-site assessments that might not yield relevant vulnerabilities to your specific environment. The cookie-cutter approach in applying best practices do not always work. Basic strategies might not work without applying unique site-specific assessments and customized approaches.

All is not lost, because even with a little effort there are steps you can take to begin the process of identifying your unique characteristics and needs. May I suggest you begin the process with a site assessment, employee and management surveys, risk assessment, training, developing a policy and supporting programs and sustaining the effort with ongoing training and new employee orientations. When considering whether to begin the process of deploying a Workplace Violence Prevention Program or not, begin with a critical vulnerability assessment of your own business practices.

When was the last time you conducted an assessment of your workplace security and business practices? Or, when was the last time you had a medical examination?  

Can you survive the scrutiny of an OSHA complaint inquiry or a civil liability lawsuit? I would begin the process now rather than later. Having a demonstrated commitment can bolster credibility and create confidence in employees who otherwise have private discussions about where they might hide when the shooter comes in. Or why should I report a potential threat and have my job changed in the interest of safety? In many cases, both sides are mutually sharing the excuse of,if it’s not broke don’t fix it“.

The time has come for all workplaces to confirm the need to improve workplace violence prevention by asking tough questions that go to the core of how vulnerable are we or how prepared are our workplace, educational or healthcare institution employees in recognizing risk, at risk situations and responding to a hostile threat or active shooter.

Stop the cookie-cutter application of cutting and pasting policies and plans and do consider your workplace unique with unique circumstances. Begin the process by conducting a critical workplace violence prevention vulnerability assessment.

The Threat of Workplace Violence Looms Mightily

Posted on: January 25th, 2015

Recent workplace and school shooting incidents underscore the importance of having current comprehensive workplace violence prevention and violence response policy and plans in place.  The unfortunate news coverage might have sensationalized the stories motivating workplace managers to deal with their workplace security realities prematurely or inappropriately.

We are finally coming to grips with the reality that workplaces are veritable lighting rods for violence.

If workplace senior leaders care and are concerned about providing for a safe and secure workplace, it requires their leadership,  and that they  understand the risk and respond appropriately in deploying supportive policies, plans and resources. Our response must not be reactionary incident to an active shooter to surface but measured against potential realities and organizational capabilities. Avoid a knee-jerk reaction to news media reports that really scare management to make  knee-jerk decisions that result in short-lived training that exposes the organization to other issues.

Dr. Robert F. Hester, Ph.D FBINA, Hester and Associates, Inc. on June 20, 2005 wrote an article entitled: Business Continuity for Small Businesses said, Safety, security and preparedness aren’t routinely a focus in our lives. Being on guard is not something Americans are used to or like doing. Still danger and the threat never goes away; only fades in memory.”

Is Dr. Hester in fact saying that our workplace security policies are like what we see in the African Plains where the Antelopes and the hungry Lions play this cat and mouse game? The Antelope senses, hears and sees the Lions attacking, they run for their lives only to return to grazing after the hungry Lions are feasting? Is that the mentality that drives the workplace security decision process? I do not think so but it makes me wonder what does.

Workplaces must not be quick to judge the misfortunes of others or what happens to other organizations in making hasty decisions without properly assessing and evaluating one’s unique workplace risks. Media interests in making news unintentionally directs the workplace security outcome through sensationalized reporting.  It can cause decision makers to under-value the real threat and the inherent risks. The threat of workplace violence looms mightily as a workplace security concern when poor communications, coordination and collaboration results in a shooting or suicide incident.  Waiting for an incident to occur before taking needed prevention measures contributes to poor morale, lowered production, performance and increased cost associated to victims and co-workers traumatized by the exposure and its memories and other related cost.

If the rationale is to let the media drive the urgency and discussion then the leadership is not being considerate of their realities and the potential for any employee to become a victim or predator. Workplace violence reflects a microcosm of our society tied directly to employee perceptions of their workplaces and their personal issues. Shortsighted initiatives that are more like window dressings lack substantive prevention effectiveness. The reality is that workplaces are veritable lightning rods for violence hence the position that  workplace violence looms mightily in every type of organization and educational setting. Our job is to minimize the risk through proactive prevention strategies and preparation of the workplace.

Minimizing risks requires taking proactive intervention strategies that includes a critical vulnerability assessment of your workplace security, violence prevention  & violence response procedures, physical security measures and workplace administrative and operation’s policies.

While reported shooting rampages have served to raise moral and ethical consciousness and concern, critical thinking and leadership are best desired in rolling out thoughtful workplace violence prevention initiatives. Workplaces must appreciate that unhappy employees don’t wake up one morning consumed with retaliation or getting even. NO, they don’t!!!  The escalation and movement towards homicidal retaliation probably started months earlier if not years earlier and the clues were missed or misunderstood, giving the appearance of negligent supervision and security.  Supervisors who do not examine their employee’s unique permanent and temporary work-sites cannot assess and evaluate the potential risk to their employees who might be exposed to autocratic supervision, toxic employees, and criminal elements.  

Sometimes workplace policies create misunderstandings when the workforce is taken for granted.  Don’t dismiss the possibility of the unintentional consequences of workplace policies contributing to conflict as a result of  employee interpretation and perceptions of the policies.  Supervisors and managers can play a leadership role by being proactive in “prevention” through swift intervention, communication and monitoring. Workplaces can show sensitivity to the fact that employees and non-employees are victims of changes in their family, medical, personal, financial and workplace relationships that are often exacerbated by workplace relationships. Disciplinary Action to include suspensions and terminations are not always the best solution but sometimes necessary. How they  are carried out will have inevitably have bearing on the employees or former employee’s psychology. 

Workplace violence prevention really requires a comprehensive view of workplaces and how best to integrate resources, collaborate strategies and coordinate efforts effectively in managing the potentially hostile workplace settings. (Developing Your Comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Policy/Plan http://klou.tt/nqurh3tsge5b )

Not wishing to rush to conclusions by questioning how effective or ineffective workplace violence prevention efforts might be, workplaces must review their policies and plans annually and take proactive measures to design an atmosphere where employees see the value of “prevention” through management’s commitment as an investment in their safety and security.  In arriving at a proactive methodology the objective is to integrate workplace violence prevention as a seamless “Human Resource Security Initiative”.  Workplaces must be critical of their capabilities and limitations by asking tough questions. We must not allow assumptions, convenience, expediency and expectations to dictate management’s decisions, attitudes and disposition. Inappropriate employee conduct (supervisors and managers alike) must be held accountable as part of building credibility and integrity in workplace violence prevention. To do so, we must ask the following questions:

  • Do we understand the risks?
  • Are we responding properly?
  • Do we monitor and track incidents, situations and people?
  • How could the incident happen?
  • What did we miss that could have prevented the outcome through care, consideration and attentiveness?
  • What did we take for granted and why?
  • How do we interact or fail to intervene?

As passionate workplace leadership, I know how devoted you are so, I do not presume or pretend I have the right answers but, would ask that senior leaders begin a process TODAY to critically assess and evaluate your respective workplace settings and situations to uncover unknown hazards and resolve known hazards and security gaps. Why wait to answer such questions tomorrow when posed by the media, OSHA or a jury?

Through proactive intervention policies and plans the workforce plays a role to enhance their “prevention capability”.  In other words the prevention effort acts as a force multiplier when the workforce understand the responsibilities, duties and the impact. Supervision, leadership, policy design and program development and documentation helps to substantiate and validate management’s commitment and fortifies employee trust and credibility in management’s ability to provide for a safe and secure workplace. Remember, having a physical security presence is part of the strategy but not the solution. But, conducting the critical vulnerability assessment can yield gaps that will allow workplaces to efficiently and effectively deploy security forces.

Putting the threat of workplace violence prevention in perspective at your workplace is important. That the number of horrific workplace related events occur infrequently, should not persuade senior leaders, risk managers or human resources to avoid having the discussion and applying appropriate protective measures.  There is a need to be prepared for the “WHEN” it happens rather than “IF”  it happens.  The phrase threat of workplace violence looms mightily means the threat can come from a variety of different threats that include; current employee, former employee, disgruntled customer, client, patient or student, opportunity criminal or the domestic/intimate partner violence spillover into the workplace. I will not scare readers with immaterial statistics not specific to your respective workplaces at this point but, I will implore you to take immediate action to improve your workplace security and workplace violence prevention posture TODAY.  It is my experience that workplace violence prevention has to become a human resources security mission.  Research shows that employer’s limited resources, misunderstanding of workplace violence prevention and a lack of technical competency may be the challenges encountered rather than a lack of will.  This list of reasons may suggest why?

  1. Denial in terms of we do not have a problem;
  2. It is resource intensive;
  3. Why invest in prevention when we can terminate;
  4. Time is of the essence;
  5. We lack the staff and support;
  6. Cost of training and NO ROI;
  7. The cost of hiring the consultant does not justify the expense.

These reasons however real, imagined or unrealistic to your situation have been chronicled in various surveys conducted by the Department of Labor, American Society of Safety Engineers, ASIS International, Pinkerton and a host of other lesser-known organizations since 1989.  Surveys point to a sense of urgency but a confusing investment and response that illustrates a misunderstanding of the potential threat and how best to deploy the resources.  Contrary to the commonly held beliefs by most that the topic of workplace violence does not affect my business and as such, it is not my problem can not be further from the truth. It affects people, property, premises and the bottom-line. (The Cost of Workplace Violence Prevention and Awareness http://klou.tt/uykyq1t6b8ji ).

As we close this topic, workplace violence continues to be a serious business security threat today facing the workplace ranking right along with Business Continuity/Business Interruption, Terrorism and Cyber and Computer Crimes.